Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Eli and Maja

Eli was my wife's uncle. An amiable and intelligent man, Eli was the person I talked to the most when I first started attending my wife's family gatherings. He was easy to talk to, knowledgeable and welcoming. I liked him.

Maja was my older daughter's cat. She had two cats--Bubbles and Maja--both young but of different personalities. I liked both cats very much, though Maja was the younger and more friendly. In fact, she was a very sweet and expressive cat who liked to rub heads. The two cats (and, by extension, my adult daughter) lived with us for a couple of years when we moved here from from Florida.

Another thing about moving here (this place which shall not be named) is that we were once again among my wife's family. I like her family, though that doesn't necessarily mean I want to live all that close to them--anymore than I want to live all that close to my own extended family.

Anyway, Eli--tragically--developed Parkinson's disease, which slowly eroded him, at least physically. That day, his wife and two daughters brought him up to visit us and though he was pretty incapacitated by the disease it was good to see him. He couldn't talk too much, his physical capabilities were very much in decline--it may have been the last trip he took before moving into an assisted living facility in southwest-central Illinois, around the St. Louis area, where he and his family lived. Eli passed away about two years ago.

My daughter and her two cats moved back to South Florida about a year ago.

So, the visit. Eli and Maja . . . My wife, her aunt and two cousins (Eli's adult kids) went out to see the town, meet my daughter at work, etc, leaving Eli and I alone at my house (my wife's house, ahem). He and I sat in the sun room, trying to have a conversation without a lot of luck. Eli sat by himself in a chair, head down, facial muscles lax and sagging. There wasn't too much to say. But then Maja jumped up in his lap.

She's a big cat and, as said, sweet and friendly.

At first Eli was startled and even more so as Maja began to bump her head into his and then rub her head against him. It was a hard and extended and loving rub from the young cat and I could tell how much Eli was surprised by it, pleased. I don't know if he was a cat person, but I imagine it meant something--at least for the moment--for Maja to display such affection. Physical affection. It went on for a while and it made me smile along with Eli.

I saw him one more time before his death--inside the facility where he lived. He had always kept up his good spirits, at least on the outside. I'm very fond of his family, closer to them than other members of my wife's, though I get along with all. And I certainly hope it wasn't just me, that Maja the cat did bring a little joy to Eli on that day.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Learning French

I took Spanish in high school. I kind of liked it, but only took two semesters--the minimum. When I went off to college, at the University of Iowa, I decided I'd study French to fulfill my language requirement.

It was my freshman year and I lived in the dorms and the class was in one of the old buildings on the Pentacrest, Schaeffer Hall I think. My teacher--my French teacher--was Japanese. Toshio Naka--I still remember his name. Toshio Naka was a good teacher. I would joke that my French had a Japanese accent, but it was just a joke. I liked him, though he complained that my pronunciations were more Spanish than French.

I only took the one semester and then switched back to Spanish, the lazy student that I often was.

I've tried to learn French off and on since then--either teaching myself or using Internet guide or, currently, using Duo Lingo on my phone. I've never been very successful. One of my best friends is French Canadian--a Quebecois--and he's taught me a few things but overall, it just never comes easy to me like Spanish tends to.